Fearing further attacks & arrests, Muslim families flee Uttarakhand village

Damaged vehicles at a village in Uttarakhand where communal violence erupted on April 16. | Photo: Indian Express

Following communal violence in a village in Uttarakhand on April 16, several Muslim families have fled the area fearing arrests and further attacks. 

Muhammad Raafi | TwoCircles.net

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NEW DELHI — Dada Jalalpur village in Bhagwanpur area of Roorkee, Uttarakhand is quiet with many Muslim families having fled the village a week after communal violence broke out.

On April 16, a Hanuman Jayanti procession entered the village while playing loud songs on the DJ. A local house owner objected to this and asked the crowd to move ahead. The procession did not move and an argument began.

“When I heard the uproar, I went to the terrace and saw  the procession.. I told myself that they are worshippers and will move on,” said Reshma, a resident.

She said she saw people engaged in an argument. Soon it escalated into a riot-like situation with both sides  pelting stones. 

Many stones landed at Reshma’s terrace, and some landed on the porch smashing her car. “Some people barged in and took away Rs 50,000 from my home,” she said. “Most of the rioters were outsiders.” She regretted that the local Hindus did not intervene and stop the “outsiders”. “We live with so much mutual love here,” she said. 

After the spate of communal violence, many Muslim residents fled Dada Jalalpur village.

Akhtari, a 55-year-old resident of Dada said that those in the procession were carrying swords and lathis. “It was a crowd of around 1000 people and the wielding of swords and lathis had made their intentions clear.”

She said that “Jai Shri Ram” chanting crowds damaged her tractor. “I came down when I heard a loud noise. They hit me with stones and ran after me with lathis.” She said her three-month-old granddaughter was hurt in the head.

Akhtari, a 55-year-old resident of Dada said that those in the procession were carrying swords and lathis. | Picture by arrangement

Muslim families living in the village are now fearful and scared to go outside.

Parveen, 70, was hit in his right hand with a stone. She said since that day she is scared and fearful of going outside.

Many injured Muslims said that they were thrashed and were forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram.”

Reshma, 30, a resident, said that they entered her house from the terrace. “They caught my brother-in-law and hit his head and insisted he chant jai shri ram. He repeated the slogan for our safety,” she said. 

“We are terrorized and no Muslim is left in the mohalla (locality),” she said. 

As per locals, the sword-wielding mobs also set Muslim houses on fire and damaged scores of vehicles belonging to the minority community.

Abid Ali, 35, said that around 200 people vandalized his house. “They beat us, dragged our car out of the house, and then set my vehicle on fire in the middle of the road.”

Abid Ali, 35, said that around 200 people vandalized his house. | Picture by arrangement

The Muslim villagers alleged that the police did not act against the mob and said that the police were biased. “Police were standing with the crowd,” Parveen said. She alleged that the police stood and watched with the crowd from the other side of the road while the mob was pelting stones at her house. 

Abid corroborated Parveen. He said that initially there were no police. “Once they came we thought they would secure us. Instead, they sided with the mobs. After the mob left, the police started thrashing us,” he said.

Hussan Jahan, a 60-year-old lady, alleged that the police instead of taking action against the rioters started harassing Muslims in the area. “They forcibly took away my phone and then took all contacts from it. They were abusing us.”

The police have so far arrested 11 members of the Muslim community among 12 persons named in the FIR and 40 unknown persons.

PD Bhatt, staff officer of Bhagwanpur police station told The Quint that they have placed a reward on seven  people. “We are doing an investigation based on the complaints we received. Muslims have not given any official complaints to the police. If the police did not take action, many people would have been injured and someone could have died as well. We acted on time to stop the violence,” he said.

Muhammad Raafi is a journalist based in New Delhi. He tweets at @MohammadRaafi